World Health Day is celebrated each year on 7th April to provide an exclusive occasion to rally action aimed at a specific health topic of concern to people worldwide.
The theme of the 2017 World Health Day campaign is depression, with the aim that more people with depression seek and receive help.
Depression is an illness that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, all over the world. It is the single greatest contributor to global disability. The number of people living with depression is also growing; it increased by 18% between 2005 and 2015.
Despite how common depression is, it is sad to say that the stigma associated with it remains high in Pakistan even in this day and age. Depression is not even considered an illness by most, and disregarded and overlooked extremely often, leading to a progression of the disease towards disastrous consequences.
The first step towards acknowledging and treating depression is to understand what it is.
Depression is a disease characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for two weeks or more.
Additionally, people with depression typically exhibit some or all of the following symptoms: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping much more or much less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Depression can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, or social status. The risk of becoming depressed is increased by poverty, unemployment, life events such as the death of a loved one or a relationship break-up, physical illness and problems caused by alcohol and drug use.
Depression can lead to devastating outcomes for relationships with family and friends and impede the ability to earn a living. At worst, depression can even result in a person committing suicide.
Yet, depression is completely preventable and treatable. People need to understand and accept depression as an illness, one that can be cured and prevented. This will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition and with receiving professional help, thus enabling people to come forward and seek help.
Treatment consists of either talking therapy or antidepressant medication or a combination of these. However, talking with people you trust is often the first step towards recovery from depression.
Opening up about depression is crucial for recovery. The stigma surrounding mental illness is the greatest barrier to people seeking help throughout the world.
Depression needs to be talked about, whether it is with a family member, friend or medical professional. It needs to be discussed in larger groups too, for example in schools, the workplace and social settings. And it especially needs to be acknowledged and accepted in the public domain; in the news media, blogs or social media.